Predicting Ebola’s spread using cell phone data

Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) epidemiologist Caroline Buckee and her team are using cell phone data to track travel patterns across West Africa to help fight the Ebola epidemic. Such data—including unique cell phone “pings” from cell phone towers—can show where people have gone after leaving a disease hot spot, thus suggesting where a disease cluster might crop up next and where best to focus health care efforts.

“The first priority has to be clinical, just getting people cared for and treated. But there’s a whole lot of planning and policy that has to happen: projections for how many beds they’ll need and how many gowns to send out, and where to send them,” Buckee, assistant professor of epidemiology at HSPH and associate director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, said November 14, 2014 in the Boston Globe. Buckee’s work was also the focus of an August 22, 2014 article in MIT Technology Review.

Buckee and her team are working with Flowminder, a Swedish nonprofit, to analyze data from Senegal and Ivory Coast provided by Orange Telecom, a West African mobile carrier. The researchers are also analyzing population movements using more conventional sources, such as surveys.

Read the Boston Globe article: New England researchers help shape the fight on Ebola

Read the MIT Technology Review article: Cell-Phone Data Might Help Predict Ebola’s Spread

Learn more

Using cell phone data to curb the spread of malaria (HSPH release)

Buckee named an ‘Innovator Under 35’ (HSPH news)

Ebola in the news (HSPH news)